June 11, 2018
UPDATE: This event, originally scheduled in March, has been rescheduled for Tuesday night in Germantown.
• • •
When I heard that Michael Bennett would be in Germantown to talk about his book “Things That Make White People Uncomfortable,” it made me – a white person – anything but uncomfortable.
This, because I would like nothing more than to hear the new Philadelphia Eagles defensive end talk about that whole mess down in Texas, where police have made the rather unbelievable assertion that he assaulted an elderly, paraplegic security guard at Super Bowl LI.
I say unbelievable not in an effort to blame the victim.
I say it because absolutely nothing about the case makes sense, from the time it took to bring charges, to the very notion of the stadium or league hiring an elderly paraplegic woman to work security at its international showcase of a game.
I wasn’t there, though, so I can’t speak to what specifically went down.
I’m a sentient being, though. So, when I see a police chief – in this case, Houston’s Art Acevedo – mount that soapbox and chirp phrases like “morally bankrupt” and “pretty pathetic,” just months after his high-profile target clashed with law-enforcement peers in Las Vegas, red flags appear as far as the eye can see.
Moreover, the outspoken player’s controversial book was slated to be released around the same time, and it’s not all that difficult to compose a theory that the charges were a pre-emptive shot at a man whose initial public statement upon becoming an Eagle was “Free Meek Mill.”
Bennett was a little busy down in Texas when the event was initially scheduled, as you can see below.
Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books, the Germantown establishment sponsoring the discussion and book signing at the People’s Sanctuary at 5507 Germantown Ave., announced that the March event has finally been rescheduled. It will take place on Tuesday night.
Holding court about the case (and other topics about which he's been vocal, as is his right as an American) would make a whole lot of white people a whole lot of uncomfortable.
In March, publisher Haymarket Books posted a “We Stand with Michael Bennett” statement co-signed by 16 supporters including John Carlos of raised-fist-on-Olympic-podium fame.
It deemed the assault charges “absurd, curiously timed, and deadly serious” and demanded that the charges be dropped “so Michael Bennett can get back to his life and important work.”
“We also question the timing of these charges, taking place as Michael has become more widely recognized as an outspoken opponent of police brutality and corruption and is about to release a book in which he speaks about why he chose to protest police violence and racial inequality during the national anthem over the course of the 2017 NFL season,” it continued.
Since Bennett's initial appearance was postponed, I reached out to his co-writer, Dave Zirin, who wasn’t scheduled to be at the event. At Bennett’s request, he didn’t comment on the Houston stuff.
He did, however, describe the book as a “memoir/manifesto that aims to talk about issues most of these books don’t touch, centrally why an NFL player would risk his job to protest racial inequality during the national anthem.”
He also said the book is “honest, funny, vulnerable and uncomfortable.”
“I think Philly fans, known for their hard edges and the kind of biting humor that leaves a mark, will love it,” he offered.
Of that last note, I’m not so sure.
Certainly, Eagles fans who think along the same socio-political lines that I do might love it.
The fact of the matter is some will be so turned off by the title that they’ll lash out with their predisposed notions about race, not even bothering to read – or listen – to what Bennett has to write and say.
Heck, maybe they'll keep pretending they're sticking to their NFL boycott since players of a different (and some of their own) race decided to kneel in a protest that was misrepresented as many things it wasn't.
Good for them.
Those are the people – like the ones you’ll see commenting on this piece without reading far enough to see this namecheck – who need to be made uncomfortable.
If it takes attention drawn to a book event in Germantown to do it, even better. That's why it'd be a shame if the apparently trumped up charges in Texas take that opportunity away.